B&W, 1963, 92m. / Directed by David Bradley / Starring Walter Stocker, Audrey Caire / Rhino (US R0 NTSC)


Now here's a level of cinematic pain that few will be able to sit through without giggling uncontrollably. The remnants of a disastrous 1963 B-movie entitled Madmen of Mandoras were haphazardly spliced into newer, late '60s footage (crafted at UCLA, according to the liner notes, but who really knows?) vaguely related to the story of Hitler's animated head plotting a takeover from South America. Needless to say, the opening newer sequences (which feel for all the world like a Doris Wishman grindhouse quickie) completely fail to cohere with the original film, which was surprisingly well photographed by the great Stanley Cortez (Night of the Hunter, The Magnificent Ambersons). Approach at your own risk. The hallucinatory tale begins with a professor falling victim to a car bomb while apparently carrying the antidote to a nerve gas being developed by a rising Fourth Reich. A government agent named Vick is called in and ordered to follow up on the assassination, despite the fact that another professor actually developed the formula and is still among the living. Vick teams up with feminist agent Toni, and they track down the evildoers to an old house where carnage ensues. Shorn of our two leading characters, we then hop over to Mandoras for another story about a kidnapped diplomat's daughter named Suzanne who now grinds away at a local bar. She tips off her would-be rescuers about some nefarious nouveau Nazis, who apparently have preserved the Fuhrer's severed head in a glass jar. Needless to say, Hitler's in a very foul mood and twitches spastically towards his minions. Chases follow. People die. None of it makes a lick of sense.

Somehow it's just tragic that one of the few examples of Cortez's photography on DVD lies within this film, which has been salvaged from public domain hell by the folks at Rhino. While most prints run 74 minutes, the Rhino disc contains every shred of alternate and additional footage ever shot, tallying up to a mind-boggling 92 minutes. More is not necessarily better, but it certainly is funnier. The image quality ranges wildly, from the ragged opening credits to the surprisingly crisp (if slightly damaged) 16mm inserts to the 35mm original. For some reason the sound goes all to hell for a few minutes one hour into the movie, with some odd fluttering noises in the background. The packaging claims to be mastered from the original 35mm film elements, which could very well be true; while no demo piece by any means, the film looks decent for the most part. Just keep your expectations low and enjoy. Special points for the animated menu, which features an animated Hitler head yammering away in quasi-German; however, it would have been even better to have him simply yelp repeatedly, "Mach schnell! Mach schnell!"


Colour, 1978, 102m. / Directed by Peter Collinson / Starring Oliver Reed, Susan George / Carlton (UK R2 PAL)


On a sweltering afternoon in the dead of summer, police lieutenant Jim Wilson (Oliver Reed) says goodbye to his colleagues and prepares for his last day on the job before returning to his hometown away from the depressing grind of the city beat. Meanwhile, the volatile Frank (Stephen McHattie) has just returned to town and plans to reunite with his girl, Janie (Susan George). While having a drink at a bar, he learns that Janie now has a new man in her life, "one who can afford her." Frank loses his temper and winds up losing in a bloody brawl. Bruised and battered, he staggers to Janie's small house and berates her for being unfaithful to him. A passing police officer hears the squabble and comes inside; Frank orders the officer outside and begins a scuffle, during which the officer is accidentally shot with his own gun. Faster than you can say Dog Day Afternoon, more police swarm outside and soon the entire city comes to a halt, as Jim and his fellow officers try to avoid further bloodshed. One of the later films by British cult director Peter Collinson (The Italian Job, The Penthouse), this uneasy crime drama bends over backwards trying to convince viewers that they're watching American actors in an American film. Flat, awkward accents and bizarre fabricated slang abound, with Reed and George in particular seeming far too focused on their enunciation to be believable. Had the film stuck to a gritty British setting and aimed for a Get Carter style atmosphere, it could have been a real gem. Instead what we get is something quite odd, an inert police standoff that drags on for over an hour as McHattie (fresh off his disastrous leading turn in Look What's Happened to Rosemary's Baby) and George patch up their relationship inside. Raymond Burr even pops up occasionally for no good reason as Reed's supervisor, and Donald Pleasance has a glorified cameo as a doctor. The film isn't a complete washout, however; Collinson's direction offers some ingenious visual moments, particularly when he focuses on the plot's impact on the tourist population. Prolific '70s composer Roy Budd also pitches in with a catchy, diverse funk and jazz score that keeps the film percolating even when nothing is happening onscreen. Former James Bond crooner Matt Monro is even on hand to warble the overwrought theme song, "Alone Am I." Completely ignored and impossible to find in America, Tomorrow Never Comes has been released as an installment in Carlton's budget DVD line of Rank Organization titles. The open matte transfer is extremely clean and vividly colourful, with the typical '70s softness and graininess kept at a surprising minimum. The barely stereo soundtrack is clean and strong, with some channel separation evident in the background music. A real oddity for crime film fanatics and devotees of bizarre film casting, this is worth the low price tag despite the film's often crippling flaws.


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